Billy Casper, 1979I. Billy Casper (above, second from right) led the U.S. to a one-sided 17-11 win at The Greenbrier. Casper, who grew up in the mellow San Diego of the ’50s, ran a relaxed team accustomed to winning. He didn’t have a murderers’ row — no Nickalus, no Watson — and he didn’t need it. Team Europe, getting used to the new dynamic, was a feuding mess, and all Casper really had to do was make out lineup cards and serve steak.Lee Trevino, 1985In 1985, Lee Trevino (second from left), as tough a competitor as golf has ever known, led the U.S. team to a shocking defeat, getting barbecued in England, 16.5-11.5. The so-called Merry Mex was affable and outgoing in public but a loner in his private life — the team pep talk was not part of his wide repertoire.Raymond Floyd, 1989In 1989, Raymond Floyd (far left) took the U.S. team to England, where the matches ended in a 14-14 tie. Floyd is a hugely underrated captain. He was intense, inspiring, passionate, organized and compulsive, more so than anybody before him and like almost everybody after him. Whether that model works or not is open to debate, but he was the first modern Ryder Cup captain.
2 of 16Bob Thomas/Getty Images
Dave Marr, 1981
In 1981, Dave Marr (right, celebrating with Larry Nelson), whose lone major was the 1965 PGA Championship, picked up where Casper led off, as the U.S. won 18.5 to 9.5 at Walton Heath in England. Marr, a drawling Texan and a beloved TV commentator, was about half the size of Casper but equally mellow.
3 of 16Michael O'Bryon/SI
Jack Nicklaus, 1983. Jack Nicklaus captained the U.S. team to a 14.5-13.5 victory at the PGA headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens. There was no intensity in Nicklaus’s preparations or his captaincy. It followed from his core belief, that the Ryder Cup is a nice golfing exhibition.In 1987, Big Jack came back for a repeat performance, now with the stakes far higher. The U.S. was coming off a loss and the matches were played at Muirfield Village, Jack’s own course. Nicklaus went deep on course setup but still didn’t think it was his role to be the team cheerleader. Plus, Europe was too good. Your final: Europe 15, U.S. 13.
4 of 16Stephen Munday/Getty Images
Dave Stockton, 1991. Dave Stockton led the U.S. to a desperately needed 14.5-13.5 win at Kiawah. He picked right up where Floyd left off, and added another element: the Ryder Cup captain as college football coach. He did far more in the way of team building than any of his predecessors and painted the Euros to his players not as opponents but as enemies.
5 of 16Chris Cole/Getty Images
Tom Watson, 1993. Tom Watson did what no U.S. Ryder Cup captain has done since: he won over there, in England, 15-13. There were elements of the Floyd and Stockton captaincies in his skippering, in terms of intensity, but his style was to keep it in the team room. He was not a hugger. He did not obsess over pairings, as every U.S. captain did after him. He did emphasize that Ryder Cup play was part of a player’s legacy.
6 of 16Robert Beck/SI
Lanny Wadkins, 1995. Lanny Wadkins picked up where Watson left off, in terms of a captain with a wide macho streak. One of his two captain’s picks, Curtis Strange, went 0-3, a major factor in the 14.5-13.5 U.S. loss at Oak Hill, with the Euros staging a major Sunday comeback. Lanny, as a player, was a kick-butt closer. As a Ryder Cup captain, he was less sure of himself and, when it was over, far more emotional.
7 of 16AP/Laurent Rebours
Tom Kite, 1997
In 1997, the U.S. had its first micro-manager in captain Tom Kite. (It would have others, most notably Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin and Davis Love.) The U.S. lost by that familiar score, 14.5-13.5, in Spain. The feeling of intense loyalty many of the players had for Kite was never conveyed to the public. Kite looked after their every need, but he could not putt for them.
8 of 16Dave Martin/AP
Ben Crenshaw, 1999. Ben Crenshaw succeeded Kite, his main boyhood competition, at the Country Club. He was Kite’s opposite in many regards: more emotional, more flexible, less organized. His reputation as a Ryder Cup genius rests, of course, on the miracle comeback the U.S. made on Sunday, leading to a 14.5-13.5 win. Had his club played .500 ball on Sunday, Crenshaw’s captaincy would have been remembered for being passionate but scattered.
9 of 16Fred Vuich
Curtis Strange, 2002. Curtis Strange, a keen student of Ryder Cup play, was almost a throwback to Nicklaus. His plan was to put his guys in khakis and white shirts and let ’em play. With Tiger and Phil and Davis Love anchoring the team, he thought talent alone would carry the day. He used his assistants probably more than any of his predecessors, most notably (though seldom reported) Mike Hulbert as his emissary. Nothing clicked. The U.S. lost, 15.5-12.5.
10 of 16Simon Bruty/SI
Hal Sutton, 2004. Hal Sutton became the boldest Ryder Cup captain the U.S. team had ever seen. He wore cowboy hats. He paired Tiger and Phil. He spoke of getting out a whip. The players could barely even pay lip service to “playing” for their captain. Sutton didn’t seem to care, as long as they kicked ass, but they didn’t. The U.S. lost, 18.5-9.5.
11 of 16Bob Martin/SI
Tom Lehman, 2006. In 2006, the PGA appointed the unfailingly polite and openly devout Tom Lehman as captain as the Cup went to Ireland. He sought to be a master of team building. He evoked God, country, brotherhood. Some were moved and others were not, and nobody played worth a damn. Your final, again: Euros 18.5, visitors 9.5.
12 of 16Kohjiro Kinno
Paul Azinger, 2008
In 2008 at Valhalla, the U.S. finally won in a rout, 16.5-11.5, as Paul Azinger, taking cues from a variety of business, military, political and coaching mentors, thought about the Ryder Cup team in whole new ways. You know about his pods. You know how he talked the PGA into giving him four picks. The most emotional of Ryder Cup players was the most scientific of Ryder Cup captains. The players felt they were in sure hands.
13 of 16Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Corey Pavin, 2010. Corey Pavin took the U.S. team to Wales. On paper, he ran his club much as Lehman ran his, but with less personal warmth. Everything was by the book. Camaraderie was lacking. The rainsuits failed in a monsoon. Pavin was overly inclusive, and wives, assistant captains and PGA officials never had such high profiles. The Euros won, 14.5-13.5.
14 of 16Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Davis Love III, 2012This year, at Medinah, the U.S. captain, Davis Love, did everything right, until everything went wrong for the Americans on Sunday, leading to a 14.5-13.5 loss. Love took the detail work of the captaincy to a level even Tom Kite did not know. He committed to a gameplan early and saw no reason to change at any point. He was an anti-Sutton, treating the players as partners, not subjects. A model of the modern manager, despite the loss. A U.S. captain has never endured more second-guessing.
15 of 16Montana Pritchard/PGA of America
Tom Watson, 2014 A desperate U.S. team brought back a Ryder Cup legend in hopes of returning from Scotland with the Ryder Cup. Things didn't go the way the Americans had hoped as Europe went on to win 16 1/2 to 11 1/2. After the matches, things took a turn for the worst in the pressroom, as the American team was vocal in criticizing Tom Watson as a captain, leading to the creation of the Ryder Cup task force.
16 of 16Michael Cohen
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